Co-op pledges to cut environmental impact of its packaging by a further 10% by 2012, boost carrier bag reduction target to 75% by 2013; U.K. retailer says it has already achieved packaging weight reduction of 15%

Andrew Rogers

Andrew Rogers

Mar 2, 2011 – The Co-operative Group

MANCHESTER, England , March 2, 2011 (press release) – The Co-operative Group encourages customers to Join The Revolution as it announces the most radical sustainability programme in UK corporate history that will spearhead its membership drive and help build a more sustainable economy.

Among the groundbreaking pledges in The Co-operative’s new Ethical Operating Plan are:

* the toughest operational carbon reduction targets of any major business, and the deployment of £1billion of green energy finance by 2013
* the most radical Fairtrade conversion programme ever undertaken
* the world’s first ethically screened general insurance products
* a three-fold increase in membership from 6 million to 20 million by 2020
* significantly enhanced funding for co-operative enterprises and schools

After enjoying a strong economic renaissance, which has seen it double revenues, double profits and double membership over the past three years, The Co-operative is launching a new three year rolling programme, which encompasses all its businesses and sets out a joined up set of goals and targets to drive its ethical and co-operative aspirations.

In raising the bar across key areas including the environment, ethical finance, global poverty, animal welfare, social fairness, health and community enterprise, The Co-operative will demonstrate that the quiet revolution that began in Rochdale in 1844 is still as relevant as ever.

Furthermore, in early March, The Co-operative will launch a radical new advertising campaign that will showcase the sheer breadth and impact of its community and co-operative initiatives and will urge customers to the join The Co-operative revolution.

Group Chief Executive Peter Marks said:

"Our ambition is to build a better society and this Plan will stimulate and reinforce the unique benefit of the consumer co-operative model.

“At a time when UK society is picking up the pieces from a recession exacerbated by corporate greed and speculation, we are seeking to show that there is another way. The plc model is not the only game in town. It is possible for business to embrace the efficiencies of the market economy and also the need for robust legislation to ensure that progress is sustainable and just.

“Taken together, we believe the measures and pledges set out in our Ethical Plan raise the bar on corporate sustainability. Over the next 10 years working with our customers, members, suppliers, staff and communities we believe we really can make Britain even better.

Leading environmentalist Jonathon Porritt said:

“By launching this Ethical Plan, the Co-operative is taking corporate sustainability into a new era. Other businesses will now be seeking to benchmark themselves against this Plan”.

Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation said:

“Always a pioneer of Fairtrade, The Co-operative’s commitment to ensuring that virtually all primary commodities that can be Fairtrade will be Fairtrade sets the bar anew for the corporate world.

”This commitment will be greeted by producers as a real lifeline in these tough economic times. This could herald a gear change for Fairtrade which chimes with the public mood and predictions that the public want to buy more Fairtrade in the future.”

In total there are 47 distinct targets within The Co-operative’s Ethical Plan, which will be reported on each year within The Group’s sustainability report, a globally recognised leader in terms of transparency, materiality and independent audit.

Every year, the Plan will be considered within the Group’s democratic structures and renewed in parallel to the standard three year rolling business plan.

Key targets set out in the Plan include:

Democratic control and reward

* Co-operative Group membership to grow to 20 million by 2020 and to be opened up to the under 16s as soon as legally possible
* Dividend scheme to be amended to reward ethical consumerism

Ethical Finance

* The Introduction of the world’s first ethically screened general insurance products, which will support over two million policies
* Double financial support for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects from £400 million to £1 billion by 2013

Protecting the environment

* Having reduced its own operational carbon emissions by 20% since 2006, the target will now increase to 35% by 2017 – the most progressive of any major UK business
* We will enhance our market leading pesticides policy further, and seek to ban chemicals such as endosulfan and paraquat
* Leading biodiversity work in areas such as wood and fish to be matched with new targets on palm oil and soya
* On top of the 15% weight reductions achieved in packaging, we will reduce the environmental impact by a further 10% by 2012 and increase carrier bag reduction target to 75% by 2013
* The construction by 2012 of a head office that will set new standards in sustainable design, construction and operation in the UK

Building a fairer and better society

* Co-operative enterprise will be more heavily supported through the investment of £11m by 2013 and the launch a new £20m international Co-operative Development Loan Fund
* The Co-operative’s community investment, already amongst the most generous in the UK, will be expanded to include £5m a year to help tackle poverty around our stores and branches
* The Co-operative will spearhead a cultural shift in youth perception and opportunity through a £30m programme that will support an Apprenticeship Academy, a Green Schools programme and the creation of 200 Co-operative Schools by 2013

Tackling Global Poverty

* Going forward, if it can be Fairtrade, it will be Fairtrade. By 2013, some 90% of the primary commodities sourced from the developing world will be certified to Fairtrade standards
* Furthermore, The Co-operative will develop a unique range of projects and initiatives that benefit producers and take us beyond Fairtrade

Responsible retailing

* Healthier Choice products will be no more expensive than standard equivalent lines and the nutritional content of Simply Value products will be at least as good as standard equivalent lines

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